Date of Award

Spring 3-19-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Marilou Ryder

Second Advisor

Julie Hadden

Third Advisor

Mona Montgomery


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study is to identify and describe the educational and social experiences that sparked the interest of female pilots as young women to pursue a career in aviation.

Methodology: This qualitative phenomenological study utilized semi- structured interviews to explore the lived experiences of female pilots, to understand if there were common social and educational factors which influenced them to become interested in aviation. Using convenience sampling, eleven pilots who hold a Federal Aviation Administration Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot’s License were selected to participate in this study.

Findings: The findings from this research show that exposure, influence and personality were critical factors in sparking the interests of girls to eventually pursue a career in aviation. The pilots in this study were exposed to aviation at a young age through an aviation-based event, a relevant extracurricular activity, or a friend, or family member involved in aviation. They also were positively influenced by parents, teachers, other aviators, or though media. The pilots also displayed many common personality traits including identifying as “tomboys”, the desire to make the world a better place, and being goal driven. However, the pilots also displayed a lack of confidence.

Conclusions: The findings and literature expose the intertwined relationships social and educational factors have in influencing who a girl will become. Results indicated that the “spark” for aviation comes from a supportive family and educational environment, the opportunity to participate in aviation-based activities at a young age, and a personality not limited by traditional societal norms.

Recommendations for Action: The researcher recommends that girls be exposed to aviation during their elementary school years. This should be done through engagement from the aviation industry, or anyone who holds a love of aviation. School districts must also provide opportunities to participate in activities that include hands on engagement and provide career counselors during the critical elementary school age. Finally, parents and teachers should be reminded of how essential their support is in girls believing they “have the right stuff”.